The England squad in Sri Lanka is nervously awaiting the results from its latest round of Covid-19 testing, with Moeen Ali departing the team hotel after being diagnosed with the virus.
The tour received an early setback on Monday, when Moeen was confirmed as positive following a round of tests on arrival at the airport in Hambantota. The all-rounder is now obliged to quarantine for a 10-day period ending on January 13 – the day before the first Test in Galle.
The remainder of the travelling party – including Chris Woakes, who is facing a seven-day isolation having been identified as a close contact of Moeen – were retested at their team base in Hambantota on Tuesday morning.
The screening consisted of four swabs, two for a quick turnaround lateral flow test and two for a more sophisticated PCR. Results for the former could be available as early as Tuesday evening but given the greater scope for false positives, they will not be made public.
Instead, they will act as an illustrative guide ahead of the more reliable PCR results, which will arrive the following day. Should the latter show a wider level of infection among the squad the seriousness of the outbreak would be escalated, with managing director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles on site to lead any logistical discussions.
He performed a similar role in South Africa, when the decision was made to abandon the tour after a series of positive tests inside the players’ bubble, but England are hoping the strict measures in place on the trip will prevent such drastic action this time. Squad members were disinfected with spray guns after disembarking their charter flight on Sunday and have been subsequently confined to their rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel.
If any spread has been contained the players will be free to begin outdoor training and work towards acclimatisation for the heat and humidity they will expect to encounter in the two-match series.
As for Moeen, the 33-year-old has been transported to private accommodation in Galle where he will complete his quarantine period. Although he is currently said to be asymptomatic the England and Wales Cricket Board’s chief medical officer, Dr Nick Peirce, will travel separately to the location to ensure he is settled in to the new environment.
Peirce has already received a vaccination jab in his capacity as a frontline NHS clinician.